Some 10 years ago roughly 20,000 weight-loss operations were undertaken in the US each year. In 2006 that figure is likely to reach a staggering 200,000.
Today about thirty percent of the population of the United States is overweight, with about 1 in 3 of these people being clinically obese. Furthermore, a staggering nine million adults are overweight by more than 100 pounds and are classified as morbidly obese.
For these people the established remedy of diet and exercise simply does not work and they are turning in increasing numbers towards gastric bypass surgery.
The most common form of gastric bypass surgery now is a procedure called Roux-en-Y which creates a stomach pouch, using a section of the stomach itself, that is then linked up to the small intestine, bypassing a fundamental portion of the stomach and duodenum. the procedure to hold large quantities of food but, having bypassed the duodenum, the absorption of fat is also greatly reduced.
The growing popularity of Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, assisted by such things as its use by several high-profile celebrities, expanded coverage by Medicare and some enterprising marketing, has led to an increase in the number of medical facilities providing the procedure . Several of these establishments are however better than others and just a few are possibly a little too preoccupied with the profit to be made from providing gastric bypass surgery. This, in turn, presents an escalating danger for those contemplating surgery.
Results can be quite impressive, not only in terms of the weight loss seen but also in terms of the striking improvement that can be made to the patients overall quality of life. Despite this, gastric bypass surgery is a major surgical procedure and is certainly not suitable for everyone and is not without risks.
But just what are the risks involved?
Well, the risks of gastric bypass surgery will clearly vary from one individual to another and anyone considering surgery should consult a doctor to find out the risks that surgery carries in their particular case. Here though, in general terms, are just some of risks more commonly associated with gastric bypass surgery:
Death. As with any major surgical procedure there is a risk of death associated with gastric bypass surgery and estimates put the short-term risk at about one or two percent. The risk varies with age, other medical conditions and general health.
Pneumonia. Being excessively overweight puts extra stress on the chest cavity and lungs. This produces an additional risk of contracting pneumonia after surgery.
Narrowing of the opening between the stomach and small intestine. Although rarely seen, this complication may require either an outpatient procedure in which a tube is passed through your mouth to widen the narrowed opening or surgery to correct the problem.
A leak along one of the staple lines in the stomach. A leak along the staple line in the stomach can lead to and this is generally cured using antibiotics. Most cases in time but, in some cases, this leakage can be serious enough to need emergency surgery.
Blood clots in the legs. The risk of blood clots occurring in the legs is most prevalent in the case of very overweight patients and, when blood clots do form, the situation can be dangerous. Sometimes blood clots migrate to the lungs where they lodge themselves in the lung's arteries producing a pulmonary embolism – a serious and life-threatening condition that damages the tissue of the lung.
Gastric bypass surgery can also lead to swelling syndrome, a condition where the contents of the stomach move too rapidly through the small intestine causing sweating, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea and dizziness.
Some other commonly seen complications of gastric bypass surgery include vitamin and mineral deficiency, gallstones, hernia, bleeding stomach ulcers, dehydration and intolerance to some foods.
Advances in surgery are making gastric bypass surgery safer by the day and the arrival of laparoscopic surgery and the use of robotics, now being evaluated at Stanford University Medical Center in California, are also reducing the number of post-operative complications and assisting with patient recovery .
Notwithstanding the risks for each problem case there are a thousand cases of slimmer and happier people walking around. So, if you are thinking about gastric bypass surgery speak to your doctor and, while you should unduly consider the risks, do not dismiss the procedure simply because of them.